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Posted by patrickklepek

Johann Sebastian Joust, the best argument to own a Move controller that has nothing to do with a PlayStation 3, may fulfill its destiny. It’s perplexed me Sony hasn’t made Johann Sebastian Joust a centerpiece of an outreach beyond the traditional player, but with the Sports project on Kickstarter, it could now happen in a roundabout way.

We showed off Johann Sebastian Joust on the Big Live Live Show Live in 2011. During a test run, Jeff threw a chair at me. He didn't hesitate.

While Johann Sebastian Joust might be at the core of Sportsfriends, it’s much bigger than that. Sportsfriends is a collection of four local multiplayer games, including Ramiro Corbetta’s Hokra, Bennett Foddy’s Super Pole Riders, and Noah Sasso’s BaraBariBall.

Sportsfriends is asking for $150,000 over the next few weeks, raising money for a compilation targeting PS3 in fall 2013.

Bringing the four games together was largely inspired by Nintendo’s Wii Sports. Fun fact: Nintendo wasn’t interested in picking up Johann Sebastian Joust because it didn’t have single-player.

Learning these lessons has been part of Johann Sebastian Joust creator Doug Wilson’s rough year. Upon winning the innovation prize at the Game Developers Choice Awards earlier in 2012, it seemed like Wilson’s moment. He started reaching out to publishers, and trying to secure a deal for his game. The idea of being on a console was deeply romantic.

“The thing with publishers...I thought it was going to happen because we had so much exposure and I wasn’t that expensive in the grand scheme of things,” said Wilson. “As it turns out, that was a poor bet. [laughs] At some point late in the summer, it was like...’fuck this, this isn’t happening, I’m not getting the right offers, let’s self-release.’”

To be fair to publishers of the world, Johann Sebastian Joust is a tough sell. There’s no single-player mode, which Wilson found to be a sticking point with many. Sources within Sony have told me negotiations with Wilson about a release on PS3 have been ongoing for literally years, but it never came together. (Sony is involved with Sportsfriends, which I’ll touch on later.) Often, Wilson would find champions at publishers that would get his foot in the door.

“As it got up to their bosses in marketing, they didn’t know what to do with it,” he said.

Shopping Johann Sebastian Joust has been instructive to Wilson, though not one without regret. He’s now months past the game’s momentum coming out of the Game Developers Conference, and if Sportsfriends reaches its funding goals, the compilation isn’t scheduled for a release for another year. There’s a danger people will begin to forget about Johann Sebastian Joust, and move onto the next thing.

“Yup, which has happened already,” he said. “If I could reset time, I would have just Kickstarted it after GDC.”

He didn’t, though, bringing us to the present.

“It’s been a real education,” he said. “Look, I’m just some sort of academic guy who finishes a PhD in May, and then said ‘Okay, let’s go indie!’ But it’s been a rude awakening in my regards, but it’s been fun in a lot of ways, as well.”

Johann Sebastian Joust, Hokra, BaraBariBall, and Super Pole Riders were never designed to run natively on a PS3, and none of the creators involved in any of the games have the expertise to do what they’re promising. That’s the point of the Kickstarter: raise funds to hire one or more expert programmers. These programmers won’t come cheap, but they’re the ones tasked with taking four games built in entirely different ways, and make them work on a PS3.

There’s a general rule I’ve learned from talking to people involved with Kickstarter projects. “Whatever amount you actually want, ask for half.” Kickstarter has a psychological component, one that can easily work against you. People want to bet on a winner, not a loser, and if a Kickstarter has a rough opening day, it can be a slog to the finish line. See: Republique. While some Kickstarters barely cross the finishing line, it’s not common. Either a Kickstarter blows past its initial goal, allowing the creators to work towards their actual, unpublished goal, or it badly misses.

Sportsfriends doesn’t have this option, and that’s partially because of Sony’s involvement. Pub Fund, which also backed Dyad and Papo & Yo, is involved with Sportsfriends This is where the conversations between Wilson and Sony ended up. Pub Fund gives Wilson and the other creators access to capital, but it’s a check that doesn’t show up until the game has passed Sony’s QA department, a process that’s not likely to occur until the middle of next year.

“Let’s say they give you $100,” said Wilson. “Your first $100 of sales would go to them. [...] If you’re Shawn McGrath of Dyad fame, you are a talented programmer and it doesn’t cost you that much to develop the game because you can sit in a room for a while and do most of it yourself. In that sense, it’s kind of a good deal because your upfront costs [are low]. The thing that’s a big problem for us is that none of the four of us are an expert programmer, and there are four games, so we have to port all the games from all these different technologies that they’ve been done in. We have to hire an expert programmer to do it, which is very expensive, and we don’t have the upfront costs to do that because Pub Fund is this guarantee in sales. Hence, Kickstarter, and I’m a little worried people will think it looks like too much.”

Doesn’t sound like the greatest deal in the world, right? Here’s how Sony explains it.

“It’s different deals per studio,” said Sony VP of publisher and developer relations Adam Boyes (yes, that Boyes), “but usually it’s an amount of money, and in the past we’ve sort of capped it at $500,000. That gets advanced to the developer once they’ve completed the game and it’s approved by QA. They get that check once the game is complete, and that way they don’t have to wait month-to-month that a lot of other developers have to do wait. [...] What Pub Fund does is that it allows us to launch and go into deluxe extreme mode on our side, both from a digital marketing perspective and PR perspective, events, and be involved in all kinds of different activities that we do.”

Sony didn’t have a problem when Wilson approached the company about a collaborative Kickstarter, as previous Pub Fund deals have seen developers go several different avenues for initial funding, including government grants and venture capital interest.

As mentioned earlier, Johann Sebastian Joust could have been released in collaboration with Sony a long time ago. I asked Boyes what’s taken so long for something very, very obvious to happen.

“I’ve been here for about six months, but before that, we’ve been talking to Doug for years, trying to figure out something for us to work on,” he said. “Joust has always been a fan-favorite around here. Sometimes this stuff takes time. We explore a bunch of different opportunities. We’ve always had a lot of internal support for it, but it’s also the elevator pitch for it--how do you explain it to somebody that you’re trying to sell it to? That’s why putting it together with these three other games, as more of an experiential local multiplayer game, is the right way to go about it.”

The finished product will debut first on PS3, but will also be available for PC, Mac, and Linux. The possibility for Sportsfriends to appear in even more places is definitely possible, but it’s not the near future. Part of Sony’s Pub Fund deals usually includes some type of exclusivity, even if it’s only temporary.

Each of the games included in the Sportsfriends package will evolve from their current forms before Sportsfriends is released. Wilson won’t be adding a single-player mode, but a huge assortment of new game modes and optional changes for players to control. What if players could add their own music? What if each Move controller was tied to an instrument, and that instrument was removed from the orchestration as players were eliminated? What if, rather than winning as the last man standing, you had to survive an additional two seconds, eliminating the now-common tactic of players to perform suicide runs on everyone involved? What if there was a multi-round campaign mode, in which winners were awarded power-ups that carried to the next match? Wilson hasn’t nailed down the possibilities because there are so many, and it’s largely dependent on whether people get behind Sportsfriends as a concept.

The other games will change, as well. Super Pole Riders, for example, will essentially get a sequel, rather than the version that’s been shopped around at different festivals. The other will use the additional time and funding to flesh the games out into what each designer has always been hoping.

Of course, it might not work. $150,000 might be too much. Maybe it’s too close to Christmas.

“It seems like Kickstarter is sometimes a PR tool, less about the money,” said Wilson. “For us, this is going to sound lame: it’s actually about the money. I can’t get money from a publisher. If we want it on console, this actually has to be crowdfunded. I’m a little bummed that Kickstarter is sometimes now seen cynically, and it’s not just crowdfunding--it’s marketing voodoo. Again, I think the four of us are happy to try this, and, fuck it, it it doesn’t work out, we’ll sell beta versions.”

If you invest $30 or more, you won’t have to wait until fall 2013 to play these games, as the alpha versions are scheduled to begin rolling out for each of the games not long after the Kickstarter ends. I’ve had various versions of Johann Sebastian Joust on my Mac for months, and you can get plenty of fun right now. Good chance that it’s the same for Hokra, Super Pole Riders, and BaraBariBall.

“To me, indie is about this network of peers and the comradery and the support you get in that community,” said Wilson. “This is saying ‘Let’s do something really crazily collaborative.’ Almost this super band.”

Posted by aaverager

Classic!

Posted by Salarn

Patrick Klepek Did you mean to type 'Superfriends' over and over instead of 'Sportsfriends'?

Posted by Mystyr_E

Woke up, fell out of bed, dragged a comb across my head...

Edited by ONIKAGEI

Am I being dense? Is it not Sportsfriends, not Superfriends?

@Salarn said:

Patrick Klepek Did you mean to type 'Superfriends' over and over instead of 'Sportsfriends'?

Just beat me to it

Posted by aquamarin

I don't have anything good to say about this, so I just won't say anything.

Posted by Nerdware

Looks cool.

Posted by clumsyninja1

Maybe they should have done a single player campaign instead of just multiplayer...

Posted by chilibean_3

But is it worth buying a bunch of movie controllers?

Posted by mbr2

@clumsyninja1 said:

Maybe they should have done a single player campaign instead of just multiplayer...

wat

@aquamarin said:

I don't have anything good to say about this, so I just won't say anything.

wat

Posted by jozzy

Joust seems like something that will get boring in half an hour. Cute if everyone has a move controller but not really an argument to buy a bunch of them. Don't really understand how this game somehow is free from accusations of being gimmicky and shallow like all other "movement" based games.

Edited by BillyMethers

I understand development time and all, but this game has no graphics really, so what's taking it so long to come out? If they're working full time jobs and doing this, then cool, but come on dudes.. get it done.

Papa Quash should have been a warning shot for you guys to get the game out. Just saying.

Edited by SlashDance

You need at least 4 or 5 controllers to have fun with this right ? As cool as it seems, that's asking much, cause I don't have 4 or 5 friends that own a move controller. I don't even have one friend that owns one..

Edited by mnzy

@jozzy said:

Joust seems like something that will get boring in half an hour. Cute if everyone has a move controller but not really an argument to buy a bunch of them. Don't really understand how this game somehow is free from accusations of being gimmicky and shallow like all other "movement" based games.

It's pretty much a party game like Twister. I don't really understand why it gets so much coverage.

Posted by StarErik

Patrick's favorite picture.

Posted by Itwastuesday

I'm still not entirely sure what this thing is or if it's even a video game

Online
Posted by DoctorWelch

This is just sad that this game hasn't come out yet, and it pretty much encapsulates how Sony has failed this generation.

This thing should have been out 2 years ago. Instead it will probably come out the same year the PS4 comes out. That's pathetic.

Posted by WilliamHenry

@BillyMethers said:

I understand development time and all, but this game has no graphics really, so what's taking it so long to come out? If they're working full time jobs and doing this, then cool, but come on dudes.. get it done.

Papa Quash should have been a warning shot for you guys to get the game out. Just saying.

Because no publisher would pick it up.

Posted by EddyNZ

Does anyone know if Joust could run from a Vita? I think there's a much better proposition to be made for being able to take the game mobile than being tethered to a PS3.

Posted by ratzombie

@BillyMethers: The whole Papa Quash thing was a bit annoying to me. That development studio was able to put out a finished game on a more preferable platform, but then it gets pulled because of how it copies Joust, a game still in development that may never come out.

Posted by Branthog

Pardon me for being an asshole, but I still don't get Joust. It's the most uninteresting over-hyped idea, ever. I mean, even more than rhythm games.

Posted by TheMasterDS

They should've tried to get Nidhogg in. That's another game like that that seems rad.

Edited by ProfessorEss

I'm sure I could enjoy it and I applaud Wilson's concept but I only know one person with one move controller and I don't think anyone I know (some of whom can be quite extravagant with this sort of stuff) is or would be interested enough to buy all those move controllers.

I'm not sure what additional hardware/software is required so I'm not sure if it would be feasible but I keep thinking this would be better off bundled with four cheapass but sturdy controllers with the basic functionality required and sold as it's own game/toy. There are some pretty expensive toys out there that do alright for themselves. I think?

Posted by MiniPato

@aquamarin said:

I don't have anything good to say about this, so I just won't say anything.

NO ONE CARES ABOUT JOUST!

No one bought a move and no one will buy a move for Joust! It's just an indie game whose 5 minutes of zietgeist has passed!

There I said it for you.

Posted by Zarile3

This sounds like a lot of fun and I could really see a lot of my friends getting into it when we all get together. That said, I can't justify buying the game, 1 move starter kit, and another 3 controllers just to play it once every few months when we all get together. It's unfortunate too, because Joust looks like a blast.

Posted by BBQBram

@Mystyr_E said:

Woke up, fell out of bed, dragged a comb across my head...

Found my way downstairs and drank a cup?

Posted by ChrisTaran

Christ, more coverage of this thing that is not a video game, Joust.

I think Patrick is just doing this to troll us at this point...

Must be nice to be friends with games journos that will cover your crap regardless of how relevant it is to their audience!

Posted by Counterclockwork87

I don't get the buzz over Joust by Patrick and some others...I've heard it said before...you could pretty much make this exact game yourself by filling a plastic cup to the brim with water so any wrong movement spills the liquid.

Posted by Mystyr_E

@BBQBram said:

@Mystyr_E said:

Woke up, fell out of bed, dragged a comb across my head...

Found my way downstairs and drank a cup?

Looking up I noticed I was late

Posted by professording

@Mystyr_E said:

@BBQBram said:

@Mystyr_E said:

Woke up, fell out of bed, dragged a comb across my head...

Found my way downstairs and drank a cup?

Looking up I noticed I was late

A-ha a-ha a-ha a-ha

Posted by Gold_Skulltulla

I don't really want to own JS Joust, but I would love to play it. Love to see it as part of a tour or something. Maybe it could show up at more than indie game festivals and partner with a band or something? I don't know, I want to support it, but it's such a hard sell. I'm more interested in seeing new ideas from these creative minds at this point and chalking JS Joust up to "lessons learned."

Posted by TwoArmed

The push to try to make people care about this game at all blows my mind.

Posted by Sooty

Joust is as dumb as Patrick's love for it.

Posted by BBQBram

@Professor_Ding said:

@Mystyr_E said:

@BBQBram said:

@Mystyr_E said:

Woke up, fell out of bed, dragged a comb across my head...

Found my way downstairs and drank a cup?

Looking up I noticed I was late

A-ha a-ha a-ha a-ha

Wait is that supposed to be the bridge harmony or ironically slow laughter?

Posted by professording
@BBQBram

@Professor_Ding said:

@Mystyr_E said:

@BBQBram said:

@Mystyr_E said:

Woke up, fell out of bed, dragged a comb across my head...

Found my way downstairs and drank a cup?

Looking up I noticed I was late

A-ha a-ha a-ha a-ha

Wait is that supposed to be the bridge harmony or ironically slow laughter?

I think Paul does a pant of some sort here.
Edited by Bobby

Hokra is amazing.

Posted by Mechanized

Don't understand the hype behind this game at all. Like... at all.

Posted by Timnoldzim

So does "Joust" rhyme with "Bach" now?

Posted by Krakn3Dfx

I would never ask my friends to come over and play Pole Riders.

Just saying.

Posted by Thoseposers

@MiniPato said:

@aquamarin said:

I don't have anything good to say about this, so I just won't say anything.

NO ONE CARES ABOUT JOUST!

No one bought a move and no one will buy a move for Joust! It's just an indie game whose 5 minutes of zietgeist has passed!

There I said it for you.

this. i'm sick of these articles

Posted by Shaanyboi

I get Joust. I do. I understand what it tries to do, and it seems interesting and fun.

But seriously, this push to make it like this BIG thing, dozens of articles that are like "THIS is what justifies the Move, man. This NEEDS to get out there to the public..."

No. Just stop. It's not that special. Yes, it's an interesting use of the technology, yes it could be a fun game for people while drunk. But no one is going to buy a Move for it, and if they did, they'd have their 20 minutes of fun and then regret spending as much as they did. It's a cool GDC/PAX demo, and that's about it...

Posted by TwoArmed

@Shaanyboi: But...Indie!

Edited by Peanut

To sum up the comments thus far: Nobody gives a shit.

Did I get that right, guys?

Posted by Terjay

@Peanut said:

To sum up the comments thus far: Nobody gives a shit.

Did I get that right, guys?

Yep. Well except for Patty McKlepek.

Posted by ERoBB

To those asking "Why not just add single player?" ... I don't think you've seen what the game actually looks like in practice.

Edited by RetroVirus

My real question is why Nidhogg isn't part of this. I really want to play it!

Posted by probablytuna

I don't think I'll be purchasing the game or Move controllers just to play it but I hope it all works out for them in the end.

Online
Posted by Terjay

Also: "PUBLISHERS DON'T CARE ABOUT THIS GAME :(" They probably care more about not being sued to hell and back when someone gets tossed through a window or something.

Posted by ramiam402

I'm actually quite excited for this, I played JS Joust at E3 and had a blast with it. With the right group of people the game can be a lot of fun, and for myself at least it certainly didn't get boring after a half hour.

Posted by Dezztroy

I can't wait for this "game" to die.

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